- A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction to block Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for health workers. The president had required workers in hospitals and nursing homes to receive at least one vaccine shot by 6 December. Fourteen states, led by Louisiana, sued in opposition to the mandate.
- The primetime CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was suspended. This was in light of new evidence that he used his position to gain intel on the women accusing his brother, the former New York governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. Chris Cuomo also tried to make his brother aware of upcoming coverage of the scandal, according to evidence released by New York’s attorney general.
- The Centers for Disease Control has updated its coronavirus-related travel advisories for Niger, Papua New Guinea, Poland and Trinidad and Tobago. The CDC now lists all four countries under Level 4, which is categorized as Very High for Covid-19. Officials advise Americans to avoid travel to these countries, and if travel to these countries is necessary, to make sure to be fully vaccinated before doing so.
- Mark Meadows, formerly Donald Trump’s chief of staff, has reached an agreement to cooperate, at least initially, with the bipartisan House committee investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol, according to reports. Meadows is providing records and agreeing to appear for an initial interview.
- Dr Mehmet Oz of TV fame is planning to run for senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican. Oz has attracted controversy for promoting treatments not supported by scientific evidence.
– Maanvi Singh and Vivian Ho
Federal judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for health workers
A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction to block Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for health workers.
The president had required workers in hospitals and nursing homes to receive at least one vaccine shot by 6 December. Fourteen states, led by Louisiana, sued in opposition to the mandate.
“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million health care workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” wrote Terry Doughty, the US judge who issued to ruling. “It is not clear that even an act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional.”
Chris Cuomo suspended from CNN
The primetime CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was suspended in light of new evidence that he used his position to gain intel on the women accusing his brother, the former New York governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.
Chris Cuomo also tried to make his brother aware of upcoming coverage of the scandal, according to evidence released by New York’s attorney general.
My colleague Oliver Milman reports:
A transcript of an interview with the younger Cuomo showed that at one point the TV host texted Melissa DeRosa, his brother’s top aide, to say “I have a lead on the wedding girl”. It was a reference to Anna Ruch, a woman who accused Andrew Cuomo of attempting to kiss her at a wedding.
Chris Cuomo told investigators a “source” told him about Ruch and a friend told him that “maybe she had been put up to it”.
The broadcaster also used his contacts to warn his brother, via DeRosa, of yet-to-be-published media reports regarding allegations against him.
“I would – when asked, I would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out,” Cuomo told investigators.
Chris Cuomo has acknowledged that he advised his brother on how to respond to a scandal that engulfed his administration, but the extent of his involvement has only now become clear.
At the press conference, Omar played a threatening voicemail, which she said she received “hours after” she got off a phone call with Boebert.
Boebert had phoned to ostensibly apologize for making offensive comments, but Omar called the interaction “unproductive,” noting that her colleague “doubled down on her rhetoric.”
“I wish I could say the congresswoman is an outlier” in making Islamaphobic comments, Omar said during the press conference, referring to Boebert.
On the voicemail, a male voice is heard threatening: “I would love an opportunity to take you off the face of the earth... you will not live much longer bitch.”
At a Muslim Caucus press conference on the representative Lauren Boebert’s Islamaphobic comments, the congressman Andre Carson emphasized that his colleague’s conduct was dangerous.
“Now let’s be clear, this is not about hurt feelings or mean-spirited words, this is about calling out individuals who deliberately incite violence and irresponsibly spread lies and misinformation,” he said.
Ilhan Omar added: “The truth is that Islamophobia pervades our culture, our politics and even policy decisions.”
Here’s more background on the incident:
An expert committee has recommended that the Food and Drug Administration approve Merk’s Covid pill for high-risk adults.
The drug, molnupiravir, has been shown to reduce hospitalization and death from the Delta, Mu and Gamma variants. The pill, which if authorized would likely be recommended only for patients who are older and have comorbidities that make them extra vulnerable to Covid-19, could be available by the end of the year.
A similar treatment from Pfizer has been shown to be more effective than Merck’s drug, and will likely also get authorization in the coming weeks.
Federal prosecutors began their aggressive cross-examination of the Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes on Tuesday, in Silicon Valley’s highest-profile trial in decades.
Holmes entered the federal courthouse in San Jose, California, flanked by her partner, Billy Evans, and her mother for her fifth day on the stand fighting charges that she lied about the company’s core blood-testing technology. She faces 11 counts of fraud and up to 20 years in prison.
Assistant US attorney Robert Leach targeted Holmes’s assertions that she did not know about the failures of the company’s proprietary tests, zeroing in on methods she used to quash whistleblowers and investigations into the company.
Holmes previously testified she believed Theranos’s technology to be more accurate than it was due to successful early trials. She cited studies conducted by Schering-Plough (a pharmaceutical firm that later became Merck) and Pfizer, saying that at the time the numbers meant “our system was working well”.
Today so far
- Joe Biden is speaking in Rosemount, Minnesota, touting the bipartisan infrastructure law.
- Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Andre Carson are expected to hold a press conference soon about far-right congresswoman Lauren Boebert and her Islamophobic remarks.
- The Centers for Disease Control heightened the coronavirus-related travel advisories for four countries: Trinidad and Tobago, Niger, Papua New Guinea and Poland.
- A stopgap funding bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives soon ahead of the 3 December deadline.
Joe Biden is speaking to widespread applause in Rosemount, Minnesota, but it appears not everyone was happy to see him.
A pool report noted that about 100 anti-Biden people gathered near the location, one person waving a “Build Back Broke” sign playing on the Build Back Better Act. Others waved Trump flags and wore shirts with the coded “Let’s Go Brandon” message that translates to “Fuck Joe Biden” - while others waved signs just flat-out reading “Fuck you, Joe Biden”.
Joe Biden is addressing the nation’s infrastructure now. He noted that in 2007, Minnesota was one of the first to sound the alarm over the country’s infrastructure when the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapsed, killing 13 and injuring 145.
“Our infrastructure used to be rated the best in the world,” he said. “According to the World Economic Forum, we now rank 13th in the world. We’re turning things around in a big way now, and it starts with roads and bridges.”
Joe Biden took the opportunity to urge, once again, all Americans to not only get vaccinated but to get their booster shots.
“The best protection is to get fully vaccinated, getting a booster shot,” he said. “I urge all Americans who haven’t gotten it yet to get it done, get it done today.”
Joe Biden is in Rosemount, Minnesota to talk about the bipartisan infrastructure law. But first, he addressed the school shooting in Oxford, Michigan:
“My heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,” he said. “You have to know that whole community has to be in a state of shock right now.”
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has more to say on the Build Back Better Act and the Democrats’ hope to pass it through the Senate by Christmas Day - 25 December.
The Centers for Disease Control have updated their coronavirus-related travel advisories for Niger, Papua New Guinea, Poland and Trinidad and Tobago.
The CDC now lists all four countries under Level 4, which is categorized as Very High for Covid-19. Officials advise Americans to avoid travel to these countries, and if travel to these countries is necessary, to make sure to be fully vaccinated before doing so.
The Tennessee education department declined to investigate the first complaint under a new state law that bans some teaching approaches to issues of race and bias – a complaint that included a book about the Rev Martin Luther King Jr and the March on Washington.
The bill, passed in the spring, includes among its targets critical race theory, or CRT, an academic discipline that examines the ways in which racism operates in US laws and society. CRT is rarely taught below college level but Republicans across the US have exploited fears about it for electoral gain.
The Tennessee complaint was filed by Robin Steenman, chair of the Williamson county chapter of Moms for Liberty, a conservative parents group, the Tennesseean reported.
The 11-page notice alleged that a literary curriculum, Wit and Wisdom, in use by Williamson county schools and at least 30 other districts, presented a “heavily biased agenda” that caused children to “hate their country, each other and/or themselves”.
The group took issue with several books adapted for younger readers on topics including King’s leadership of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the integration of schools in California by the activist Sylvia Mendez and the autobiography of Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to desegregate an all-white primary school in Louisiana.
Dr Oz trails Senate run in PA
The celebrity heart surgeon Dr Mehmet Oz, better known as Dr Oz, plans to run for Pennsylvania’s open US Senate seat as a Republican, the Associated Press reports.
The AP writes:
Should Oz run, he would bring unrivaled name recognition and wealth to a race expected to among the nation’s most competitive and could determine control of the Senate next year.
Oz became a household name after gaining fame as a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show.
He has also experienced controversy, notably when in 2015 a group of prominent American physicians called on Columbia University medical school to sever its links with Oz for “an egregious lack of integrity” over the promotion of “quack treatments” not supported by scientific evidence, “in the interest of personal financial gain”.
In 2016, Oz hosted Donald Trump on his TV show as the businessman ran for the White House.
Oz was later appointed to a White House Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, alongside appointees including the New England Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, bodybuilder and former Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno, New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera and the football star Herschel Walker.
Calls for an apology continue today after a Fox News commentator stoked outrage by comparing Dr Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, to Josef Mengele, the Nazi “Angel of Death”.
The news comes amid fears that the new Omicron variant will trigger a new wave of Covid cases and further deepen political divisions in the US over how to respond to the pandemic. Fox News has consistently given a platform to misinformation about Covid and measures meant to contain it.
Bill Grueskin, a professor at Columbia Journalism School, responded: “The real issue isn’t [Lara] Logan’s insanity. It’s the complicity of Pete Hegseth, the Fox News host. He never interrupts or pushes back. It’s just another day at the office.”
The American Jewish Committee called Logan’s remark “utterly shameful”.
“Josef Mengele earned his nickname by performing deadly and inhumane medical experiments on prisoners of the Holocaust including children,” the AJC said. “There is no comparing the hell these victims went through to public health measures. An apology is needed.”
- Mark Meadows, chief of staff for Donald Trump, will cooperate with the House select committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol, according to reports.
- Meanwhile, lawyers for Trump head to a federal appeals court today to once again attempt to stop Congress from receiving call logs, documents and other records that Trump had claimed were protected under executive privilege. Joe Biden waived that privilege, which belongs only to the person in office.
- This comes as sources tell the Guardian that Trump made several phone calls to his top lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington, just hours before the Capitol attack - purportedly to discuss how to halt the certification of Biden’s election win.
- Democrats set a goal of Christmas Day to at least pass the Build Back Better Act through the Senate.
- Meanwhile, several other deadlines loom in Congress - the 3 December deadline for government funding and the 15 December deadline for the debt limit.
More than 100m adults are eligible for a booster shot but have not gotten one, said Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator.
“If you are one of the 100m who are eligible for a booster, get a booster,” he said. “If you have kids, get them vaccinated.”
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control, urged Americans to get their vaccines and their booster shots as soon as they can.
“We have the tools and surveillance in place to identify the omicron variant,” Walensky said. “We also have the tools to prevent omicron from increasing the strain on our economy and healthcare system.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, is holding a press briefing about the new omicron variant of Covid-19.
Fauci says at the moment, there is too much unknown about the new variant. While the mutations make it look it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant - which in itself was more transmissible than the original virus - Fauci said at the moment, “It’s difficult to infer.”
In terms of how effective the vaccines will be against the new variant, Fauci is still confident that the vaccine, with the added booster shots, will do a lot.
“As with other variants, although partial immune escape may occur, vaccines and in particular boosters give a level of antibody that, even with variants like Delta, give you a degree of cross-protection, particularly against severe disease,” Fauci said.
At the moment it’s still unknown if there are any unusual symptoms associated with the omicron variant. “But we do not know and it is too early to tell,” Fauci warned.
The House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack had reportedly grown impatient with former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows in recent weeks as he refused to engage with the panel.
Meadows had defied his deposition in front of the committee on November 12, which CNN is further reporting in its story today “suggested the next step was a showdown that could lead the panel to begin a criminal referral process against him.”
Meadows’ lawyer George Terwilliger had indicated that there wouldn’t be cooperation until a court had decided whether Trump’s claims that executive privilege protects him from cooperating (with Meadows hoping for a similar shield by extension), a matter currently before the federal court in Washington, DC. Joe Biden won’t extend such privilege to Trump and observers think Trump’s on a long shot, here, but one that’s at least succeeding in gumming up the works.
But CNN further reports that “the tone appeared to have shifted in recent days”.
Many more subpoenas have been issued in recent days to individuals whom the House panel wants to question and see materials from, relating principally to their conduct in the run-up to the insurrection and on the day.
Meanwhile, today Guardian US reports that hours before the deadly attack on the US Capitol, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants who were basing themselves at the Willard hotel in Washington. He talked about ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January in Congress - an essential part of the American democratic process that was delayed by the insurrection but ultimately not thwarted.
Trump chief of staff Meadows to cooperate with Capitol attack investigation - report
Mark Meadows, formerly Donald Trump’s chief of staff, has reached an agreement to cooperate, at least initially, with the bipartisan House committee investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 this year by extremist supporters of the-then president, according to CNN.
Meadows is providing records and agreeing to appear for an initial interview, the cable news company is reporting in an exclusive published moments ago.
“Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney,” committee chairman and Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson said in a statement.
“He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition. The Select Committee expects all witnesses, including Mr. Meadows, to provide all information requested and that the Select Committee is lawfully entitled to receive. The Committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition,” Thompson added.
Meadows’ lawyer George Terwilliger said in a statement to CNN that there is now an understanding between the two parties on how information can be exchanged moving forward, stating that his client and the committee are open to engaging on a certain set of topics as they work out how to deal with information that the committee is seeking that could fall under executive privilege.
But the agreement could be fragile if the two sides do not agree on what is privileged information. News of the understanding comes as Trump’s lawyers argued in front of a federal appeals court in Washington that the former President should be able to assert executive privilege over records from the committee.
“As we have from the beginning, we continue to work with the Select Committee and its staff to see if we can reach an accommodation that does not require Mr. Meadows to waive Executive Privilege or to forfeit the long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify before Congress,” Terwilliger said. “We appreciate the Select Committee’s openness to receiving voluntary responses on non-privileged topics.”
The revelation from Terwilliger comes as multiple sources tell CNN that Meadows has shown a willingness to cooperate and has entered a new posture with the committee. The agreement is a significant step in the once stalled relationship that comes after months of back and forth between the two parties.
The report came as a decision was awaited from the House panel about whether to agree to refer Meadows to be charged by federal prosecutors with contempt of congress for stonewalling the investigation after being served with a subpoena.
Former Trump aide Steve Bannon turned himself in to the FBI earlier this month after being similarly charged.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that celebrity doctor and Trump adviser Mehmet Oz, who came into fame on the Oprah Winfrey show and for his at-times questionable medical advice, is expected to announce today that he will be running for US senate.
Oz, who has previously testified before Senate subcommittee on consumer protection about diet supplements after he touted green coffee bean extract as a “miracle” weight loss product, will be running as a Republican to replace Pat Toomey, a Pennasylvania Republican who isn’t seeking reelection.
Democrats want the Build Back Better Act at least through the Senate by Christmas Day - 25 December. Moderate Democrat senator Joe Manchin, who has been stymieing this bill from the beginning and siding with his Republican colleagues in criticizing the size of it, appears to have other plans.
Other Democrats like Democratic whip Dick Durbin appear a bit fed up with Manchin’s antics around Build Back Better.
So far for the month of December, urgent matters we have before Congress:
- government funding
- the debt limit
Now add to that list - the Build Back Better Act.
There are a lot of deadlines up ahead for the month of December - 3 December for government funding, 15 December for the debt limit. The arbitrary goal for Build Back Better, at least for the Democrats, appears to be Christmas Day - 25 December.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is optimistic, though considerably less than Tim Kaine.
And then of course, there are the Democrat wildcards of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema - two moderates who have balked at the size of Build Back Better from the beginning.
Lawyers to argue Trump Capitol attack records case in appeals court
Lawyers for former president Donald Trump are heading to a federal appeals court today to attempt once again to stop Congress from receiving call logs, drafts of speeches and other documents related to the 6 January attack on the US Capitol that was led by a pro-Trump mob.
A federal judge had previously rejected Trump’s claim that he could exert executive privilege, which Joe Biden had waived, allowing the National Archives and Records Administration to turn over the records.
Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump’s claims that he could exert executive privilege overriding Biden, saying, “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not president.”
This comes as the Guardian reports that hours before the attack, Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard hotel to discuss ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place.
The House select committee investigating the 6 January attack had subpoenaed these records in October. Trump ally Steve Bannon was charged with criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the subpoena - he too argued that the materials requested were protected under executive privilege.
House Republicans are engaging in a catty Twitter spat right now, emojis and all.
Some background: far-right congresswoman Lauren Boebert made Islamophobic remarks about Democrat congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Some in the GOP have been coming out to criticize Boebert for her comments, including Nancy Mace and Adam Kinzinger, who called Boebert “trash”.
In a pure high school mean girl move, Majorie Taylor Greene went not after the man, but after the woman, Mace, who called the comments disgusting, but had never called Boebert “trash”.
“Nancy Mace is the trash in the GOP Conference,” Greene tweeted. “Never attacked by Democrats or RINO’s [Republican In Name Only]_ (same thing) because she is not conservative, she’s pro-abort [sic]. Mace you can back up off of Lauren Boebert or just go hang with your real gal pals, the Jihad Squad. Your [sic] out of your league.”
Mace responded by quote-tweeting Greene and responding, “*you’re” - a a correction to Greene’s grammatical error.
“And, while I’m correcting you, I’m a pro-life fiscal conservative who was attacked by the Left all weekend (as I often am) as I defied China while in Taiwan,” Mace continued. “What I’m not is a religious bigot (or racist). You might want to try that over there in your little ‘league’.”
She quote-tweeted Greene again with, “This is what *bat emoji* *poop emoji* *clown emoji* looks like” - which can be interpreted as “this is what batshit crazy looks like”.
House minority leader Kevin McCarthy delayed the House passage of the Build Back Better Act earlier this month with an expansive, record-breaking 8.5-hour long speech on the floor that pushed voting into the next day.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who held the previous record for longest speech on the floor, called it a “temper tantrum” and periodically sent out press releases during the speech with the subject line, “Is Kevin McCarthy OK?”
The White House was particularly harsh in their assessment of McCarthy’s delay tactics.
“Kevin McCarthy said a lot of words, a lot of words, I just want to emphasize that over the course of eight and a half hours,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “For those of you who did not watch all of it, he shared his wish that he could have been in Tiananmen Square. He mused about whether or not Abraham Lincoln was actually assassinated. He shared his thought or dream, I’m not sure, about picturing America in swim meet after World War II against every other country.
“But in eight and a half hours, what he did not talk about was cutting the cost of childcare, cutting the cost of elder care, what we were going to do around the country to bring more women into the workforce, to protect the climate for generations to come.
“That, in our view, tells us all you need to know about Kevin McCarthy’s agenda and what he supports.”
But it appears McCarthy found fans of his speech somewhere: among donors.
Former president Donald Trump put out a statement today commenting on how “everybody wants me on television” yet nobody wants to debate him on his false claims of election fraud during the 2020 presidential election.
“Think of it, zero takers for the so-called ‘ratings machine,” Trump said in the statement. “The reason is, they know they can’t win.”
Reminder that current democratically elected president Joe Biden, whose presidential victory during the 2020 election has been confirmed time and time again in court cases across the country, famously had to tell Trump, “Would you shut up, man?” during one of their debates.
The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell is reporting that hours before the 6 January attack on the US Capitol, the former president called several of his top lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington to discuss stopping the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.
The calls - and Trump’s remarks, in which he told the lieutenants that his vice-president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with any plans to commandeer the certification joint session - reveal the direct line from the White House to the command center at the Willard. They also show that Trump’s thinking appeared to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the attack to halt the Capitol attack and halted Biden’s certification.
Read more here:
It’s Tuesday, and the clock is ticking toward the latest deadline – Friday 3 December – for the federal government to run out of funding.
And then we have the small matter of the debt limit, the arbitrary borrowing cap that is raised each year to prevent the US from defaulting on its debts – a move that would cause economic catastrophe. The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has said the US can meet its obligations till 15 December or so.
A stopgap funding bill to extend government funding through mid- to late January is set to be introduced in the House of Representatives today. Republicans have indicated that we should not expect a government shutdown for the holiday season, and that we could instead witness the gift of bipartisan cooperation.
With the debt limit, however? Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer informed his leadership team that he and minority leader Mitch McConnell were still in talks.
Punchbowl News, a Capitol Hill-focused outlet, isn’t expecting the same high drama over the debt ceiling as back in October. In their morning newsletter, their reporters noted that McConnell’s remarks to them of “we’re still talking about it” contained “no saber rattling, no threats – nothing”. They called it “a pretty significant departure” from his “more hardline rhetoric”, believing it may signal “a very serious effort to come to an agreement and avoid a debt-limit standoff”.